Monthly Archives: May 2013

2004 Mets Draft Class Autographs

From Humber to Hefner with Who? in between

Full list of 2004 Mets draft picks

With draft day fast approaching and the Mets poised for a top 5 pick in 2014, it seems like a good time to look back at another draft day when the Mets were in rough shape. Coming off the worst Mets season since the years we do not talk about, the 2004 draft must have come with a sense of urgency. Sure, the Mets could use free agency and the Marlins to load up on veterans to get back to a winning record, but it would take solid reinforcements from the minors to keep any newfound success going for more than, say, three or four years. If the Mets could just hold out until late 2007, the 2004 draft class could come to the rescue and prevent disaster.

As luck would have it, Upper Deck went all out on draft pick autographs in 2004, so most of the top dozen picks are represented here. Just look at all these future Mets stars! The Mets signed all of their top 12 picks except for Neil Jamison. Of the 12 though, only three would make it to the majors. One other player drafted by the Mets in 2004 would make it to the majors, but we’ll get to that later.

1 Philip Humber 2 Matthew Durkin 3 Gabriel Hernandez 4 Aaron Hathaway
5 Nick Evans 6 Ryan Coultas 7 Scott Hyde 8 Neil Jamison (DNS)
9 Mike Carp 10 Brahiam Maldonado 12 Jeffrey Landing 46 Jeremy Hefner (DNS)

Philip Humber

Philip Humber’s career trajectory is a strange one. Drafted just one pick behind Justin Verlander, the Mets must have had high hopes. Humber paid off fairly quickly as one of the pieces in the trade that brought Johan Santana to Flushing in 2008. After two uneventful seasons with the Twins, Humber signed with the Royals and worked his way through the Athletics, White Sox, and Astros on waiver claims. A year after pitching a perfect game for the White Sox, he went through waivers with the Astros and was sent down to AAA. Justin Verlander, he is not.

Nick Evans

Who? Evans may be most remembered for being forgotten. As a bit player in 159 games over 4 seasons, he didn’t do much worth remembering, so maybe that’s fitting.

Mike Carp

Carp is currently getting noticed as a part-time player with the Red Sox after being dealt to the Mariners in the ill-fated J.J. Putz megatrade and then getting swapped to the Red Sox this year for, well, not much of anything.

Those three players combine for 3.4 bWAR, 1.2 of it with the Mets. Factor in the trades and, well, Johan Santana had a pretty good 2008, right? If there’s any value to be found in the 2004 draft, we’re going to have to look elsewhere. And Elsewhere is Jeremy Hefner’s middle name (also Anybody, Warm Body, Fill-In, Placeholder, etc.)

Jeremy Hefner

Drafted in the 46th round in 2004, Jeremy Hefner wasn’t exactly a top prospect. And he didn’t sign with the Mets. They tried again in 2005 in the 48th round, but he still wouldn’t sign with the Mets. The Padres finally nabbed him in the 5th round in 2007, but Hefner would never play for the Padres in the majors. The Pirates then claimed him on waivers in 2011, only to turn around and put him back on waivers a few weeks later. And that’s when the Mets finally acquired Jeremy Hefner. It only took seven and a half years. Hefner would spend 2012 as a spot starter / long reliever before locking down a rotation spot in 2013 when everything started going wrong with Mets pitchers. The most significant Mets draftee in 2004 might be one who didn’t sign.

The Rest of the East

The Mets might not have done well in the 2004 draft, but how did the rest of the division fare? The Braves, usually known for drafting well, had a terrible draft, only getting major league performances out of two players, both at below-replacement level (27th round pick Tyler Flowers would turn out to be the best of the bunch but didn’t sign until he was drafted again by the Braves in 2005 and was traded to the White Sox in the Javier Vazquez deal before reaching the majors). Everyone else got just one useful player out of the 2004 draft – Ian Desmond for the Nationals (Expos), J.A. Happ for the Phillies, and Jason Vargas for the Marlins (who was later traded to the Mets, started two games, and joined Mike Carp in the Putz trade). Basically, the White Sox got about as much out of the NL East draft picks as any of the NL East teams did. And those 2007 Mets? The reinforcements never arrived.

Player Spotlight: Rick Ankiel

A Mets legend 13 years before putting on the uniform

I’ve been a big fan of Rick Ankiel since 2000 for two rather contradictory reasons.  The first is because I managed to pull not one but two of his autograph cards from 2000 SPX.  Numbered to 1500 (which was what passed for limited in those days), the Rookie / Young Star autographs in SPX were tough pulls.  To get two of the same autograph from a few packs was quite unlikely, but for them to be from one of the hottest rookies in the game?  That was just amazing.  Ankiel would go on to finish second in Rookie of the Year voting with a bright future ahead of him and solid value in his cards.

The second reason I am fond of Rick Ankiel undid the first.  TINSTAAPP.  Look it up.  While the regular season validated Ankiel’s top prospect status (he was ranked #1 by Baseball America going into the 2000 season), everything fell apart in the postseason.  In Game 1 of the NLDS, he lasted only 2 2/3 innings against the Braves and gave up 4 runs.  The Cardinals took the series and eliminated the team that had knocked the Mets out of the postseason in 1999, seemingly clearing a path for the Mets to go to the World Series.  All that stood in their way were the Cardinals, with Ankiel set to start Game 2 and get a shot at redemption.

There are two things I remember most clearly about the Mets in the postseason back in those days.  The first is Robin Ventura’s 15th inning grand slam single in 1999.  The second is the first inning of Game 2 of the 2000 NLCS.  Ankiel started off with a full count strikeout and then the wheels fell off.  A full count walk, a wild pitch, and a second full count walk on a second wild pitch put runners at the corners for Todd Zeile, who hit a sac fly on, you guessed it, a full count.  Robin Ventura broke the streak with a four pitch walk and Benny Agbayani got impatient and hit an RBI double before he could be issued his three balls.  That would do it for Ankiel, who somehow gave up only two runs in his second postseason meltdown.  He got one more chance to turn things around in Game 5, coming in to start the 7th inning of what would be the 7-0 blowout clincher for the Mets.  That went about as well as his previous outing – one strikeout, two walks, two wild pitches, and one run in 2/3 of an inning.

As a fan of the Mets, I always like to see them walk (literally in this case) all over their opponent.  As a fan of baseball though, I hate to see a career implode as suddenly as Ankiel’s did in October 2000.  Ankiel would pitch just 34 more innings in the majors between 2001 and 2004 before it was clear that his postseason performance was no fluke.  Rick Ankiel the pitcher was done.

This would not be the end for Rick Ankiel.  Starting back at the bottom of the Cardinals’ system, he used his strong arm and decent bat (for a pitcher) to transform himself into an outfielder.  In 2007, he made his return to the majors as a slightly better than replacement-level hitter.  After six years spent between the Cardinals, Royals, Braves, and Nationals, Ankiel hit bottom and signed with the Astros for the 2013 season, appearing in 25 games before being released.  By the Astros.  There was nowhere left to go.

And then he signed with the Mets on May 13.  Rick Ankiel, replacement-level outfielder who wasn’t good enough to play on the 2013 Houston Astros, was eagerly snapped up by the Mets to patch up their sinking ship of an outfield.  You’ll have to excuse me if I’m not jumping for joy over this move.  But hey, at least those autographs count as part of my Mets collection now.  And with a major league career spanning nearly a decade and a half, he must have a lot of interesting game-used cards, right?

Eh, not quite.  The bulk of his game-used cards are bat or white/gray jersey cards from 2000-2002.  He does have some blue mesh Team USA jersey swatches, a few Cardinals patch cards, and at least one game-used shoe card.  Beyond that, we have to dig down to game-used base cards and game-used dirt cards.  Seriously.  There were a few more boring jersey cards in 2009 and 2010, then nothing.  Rick Ankiel hasn’t been relevant in years.  Welcome to the Mets.